How to Format Your Cover Letter & Stand Out in Your Job Search

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March 24, 2023
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min read

Your cover letter format can be the difference between landing your dream job or being passed over for a job interview.

Unlike a resume, which strictly goes over your experience, skills, and certifications, a proper cover letter format clearly and effectively showcases your personality, passion, and motivation for the role.

The additional details in your prospecting cover letter further support the information in your resume, giving you an opportunity to brag about your proudest accomplishments and help establish a connection with the hiring manager.

When it comes to how to format a cover letter, connect your skills and experience to the position you are applying for. A proper cover letter format is customized for each role and should include specific examples that show why you are a good match for the job.

Before you format a cover letter, though, you should take the time to research the company and its culture. Use that research to tailor their cover letter accordingly and show that you are a good fit for the organization and job ad.

How to format a cover letter

Having a properly formatted, easy-to-read cover letter is crucial in making a positive first impression on potential employers.

A well-written and organized cover letter shows you are professional and take the job-application process seriously. It also helps to highlight your skills and qualifications in a clear and concise manner, making it easier for the employer to quickly assess your suitability for the job.

A poorly formatted cover letter, on the other hand, is a turn-off for hiring managers and recruiters and may lead to you being overlooked in favor of other candidates. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that your concise cover letter follows a standard cover letter format making it easy to read, visually appealing, and well-structured to increase your chances of success in the job application process.

The good news is you can guarantee a professional cover letter format for all your job applications, especially when using a platform like Teal.

Below are some cover letter formatting tips so you can get past applicant tracking systems, stand out, and secure an interview.

Use a header

Incorporating a cover letter header is necessary because it gives hiring managers and recruiters the most important information - your name and contact details- right away. Make sure you list a professional email address.

Even having the perfect cover letter layout won't matter if the hiring manager can't reach the applicant, which is why a header is a crucial part of writing your cover letter correctly.

When crafting your cover letter, always format your header first. Make your application letter stand out. Choose a font size and a font style that are legible for a potential employer.

Personally address the hiring manager

Addressing the hiring manager by their name is a personal touch that shows you've taken an extra step in the application process.

The challenge is that some job descriptions include the hiring manager's name, but not all do. In these situations, you'll need to do a little digging.

The easiest way to look up a professional's name is through the company's website. Often, there is a "Team" page that includes employee names and roles.

If the company does not have a "Team" page, your next step is LinkedIn. Type in the company's name and the hiring manager's position and see which name pops up first.

For more tips on effectively researching company information, check out this article: How to Interview With Confidence.

Use a font that's easy to read

No fancy fonts here - those will be immediately flagged by applicant tracking systems.

When formatting your email cover letter, it is necessary to use font styles that are clear and easy to read. A font style like Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Helvetica, and Verdana are safe bets.

Additionally, use a font size that is easy enough for someone to read - don’t try to cram information into your cover letter.

Consider spacing and margins

Similar to using a clean and clear font, your cover letter's spacing and margins should be just as clean and clear.

A text-heavy cover letter is overwhelming for hiring managers to review, so use standard, one-inch margins and single spacing.

Select a compatible file format

Saving your cover letter (and resume) in a compatible file format is one of the most important boxes to check during the application process. How can a hiring manager learn about your amazing capabilities if they can't open the file?

As a rule, always save your files as a PDF, which is a universal format that is also easy to read.

Make sure it's an appropriate length

Hiring managers read through dozens of cover letters when hiring for a single position, so keep your letter concise and to the point.

An appropriate-length cover letter is anywhere from 300 to 400 words. This is enough space for you to go into detail about a big accomplishment or share key career highlights.

Cover letter structure best practices

Following best practices when putting together and formatting a cover letter helps ensure that you present yourself in the best possible light.

Best practices such as using a professional tone, highlighting relevant skills and experience, and customizing the letter for each job application can make a significant difference in the eyes of potential employers.

Additionally, following best practices ensures that the cover letter is free of errors. By adhering to best practices, there is an opportunity to demonstrate your attention to detail, communication skills, and commitment to excellence - all of which are highly valued in the workplace.

Ultimately, following best practices when putting together and formatting a cover letter is essential for making a positive impression on potential employers and increasing the chances of landing an interview and ultimately getting the job. Here are key points to review before you hit 'send.'

How to start a cover letter

Think of your cover letter like an article. You want to grab the reader's attention immediately so they are interested in what you have to say.

Not sure how to begin your cover letter?

The best way to kick off a cover letter is to think of your most impressive accomplishment that aligns with the job you're applying to. Don't be modest - use your cover letter as an opportunity to brag about yourself. Hiring managers look to cover letters to see which candidate has the most impressive backgrounds.

From there, add in other examples from your career into your cover letter that show you are the best fit for the role. The key word is 'show.' Don't tell with empty words like "highly motivated" or "detail oriented," show your work by incorporating resume action verbs and concrete examples into your cover letter.

Remember, hiring managers often scan cover letters, so only include the necessary information that stands out the most.

How to make a fun cover letter

A modern cover letter format can be jazzed up a little, depending on the job posting. You can make a fun cover letter by including interesting anecdotes, using your wit, incorporating data or new information, cracking safe-for-work jokes, and showing your personality by incorporating your personal interests and unique hobbies on a resume.

The people reading your cover letter are your potential employers and would work with you on a day-to-day basis, so they want to know about your personality as much as they want to know about your experience.

Use your cover letter to show all that makes you awesome - including the fun parts.

How to make a professional cover letter

For more professional and buttoned-up job opportunities, you will need an application cover letter that showcases your professionalism to clearly communicate that you are a results-driven candidate.

When crafting a professional cover letter, attention to detail is more necessary than ever. Your cover letter format must be crisp and clean, with no spelling or grammatical errors.

Read the job description carefully to identify ATS keywords, to make sure your experience is aligned as well as possible with the job advertisement, and it is properly communicated in your cover letter.

When determining your cover letter format, consider only the information that is strictly necessary to the job position, highlighting your most impressive accomplishments that coincide with the role.

As you write your cover letter, use an active, to-the-point voice. Cover letters that use active voice demonstrate confidence and give hiring managers a compelling call to action: hiring you.

How to personalize a cover letter

Show you've done your research by personalizing your cover letter to the company and hiring manager. Always try to incorporate the hiring manager’s name into your cover letter, as it gives a personal touch.

Spend time reviewing the company's website to better understand its mission and culture and incorporate what you've learned into the cover letter.

You can keep track of the research you conduct in Teal's Job Application Tracker. Tips and guidance are offered of where and how to conduct research. You can also log the research completed on any contacts you have made at the company.

Within Teal’s Job Application Tracker, keep track of your research by adding personal information and notes about company contacts.
Within Teal’s Job Application Tracker, keep track of your research by adding personal information and notes about company contacts.

If the job posting does not list the hiring manager’s name, you can use the company’s website or LinkedIn to look up the job title and find the correct person. As you are searching the company’s website and LinkedIn, consider the details you can incorporate into your cover letter.

If the hiring manager has a bio on the company's website or their LinkedIn profile, use a sentence in your cover letter to reference some of the hiring manager’s professional experience and/or accomplishments. Or, use a sentence in your cover letter to explain why the company’s mission is important to you.

Additionally, you can use Teal’s artificial intelligence within the AI Resume Builder to customize your cover letter to the company and the job description - another hack that makes the cover letter formatting process efficient and your cover letter effective. 

Use the AI functionality within Teal’s AI Resume Builder to tailor multiple versions of your cover letter.
Use the AI functionality within Teal’s AI Resume Builder to tailor multiple versions of your cover letter.

Adding these details into your cover letter communicate to hiring managers that you are familiar with and invested in the opportunity available and will likely put you at the top of the candidate pool.

How to end a cover letter

The best way to format a cover letter closing is to quickly reiterate the main reasons why you are the best fit for the job in the final paragraph. Make sure these reasons align with the position itself, as cover letters exist to show why you are the absolute best fit for those job responsibilities.

At the end of your cover letter, it is also recommended you include when you are available to start the position as another way to show hiring managers you are serious about the job.

Three cover letter examples

Below, we've provided a different cover letter format example for three separate potential employers, showing there are different ways to come up with the best cover letter format. Each cover letter was crafted by using artificial intelligence, which can format a cover letter based on the job description and your resume. 

While we do not recommend completely relying on artificial intelligence to create your cover letter, the technology is extremely helpful in providing a professional cover letter template you can tweak and personalize to get a hiring manager's attention.

Depending on your prompt, artificial intelligence can create many cover letter formats, including a traditional cover letter format, an opening paragraph or closing paragraph for a cover letter, a professional cover letter format, and more.

Learn more about writing your cover letter using ChatGPT here and view the cover letter formats below.

A persuasive cover letter in 150 words or less

Dear [Hiring Manager],

I am writing to express my enthusiasm for the [position] at [company]. With over 15 years of experience in content creation and digital strategy, I am confident that my skills and passion for helping brands find their voice make me an ideal candidate for this role.

At Blackstar Communications, I have honed my expertise in social media, e-marketing, copywriting, blogging, and e-commerce to help small business owners, non-profit organizations, and programs for good achieve their goals.

In addition, as the host of the People Analytics Podcast and an Adjunct Professor at Aquinas College, I have proven my ability to effectively communicate and collaborate with diverse audiences.

I am excited about the opportunity to bring my expertise and enthusiasm to [company] and make meaningful contributions to its growth and success. Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to discussing my qualifications with you in more detail.


[Your Name]

A conversational cover letter

Dear [Hiring Manager],

I am thrilled to apply for the [position] at [company] and bring my 15 years of experience in content creation and digital strategy to your team.

As someone who has explored various career paths, I can confidently say that I have found my passion in helping people, brands, and organizations find their voice through social media, e-marketing, copywriting, blogging, e-commerce, and more.

What sets me apart is my ability to offer a personal, friendly, and collaborative experience to anyone I work with. Whether it's working with small business owners, non-profit organizations, or programs for good, I take pride in delivering customized solutions that meet their unique needs.

In addition to my work at Blackstar Communications, I have also been hosting the People Analytics Podcast and teaching business communications to college students at Aquinas College. Through these experiences, I have honed my communication and collaboration skills, and I am confident that I can make meaningful contributions to [company] as a [position].

Thank you for considering my application. I would love the opportunity to discuss my qualifications with you in more detail.


[Your Name]

A compelling cover letter

Dear [Name],

I am excited to apply for the [position] at [company]. With my experience at Blackstar Communications, where I have helped people, brands, and organizations find their voice through digital strategy, I am confident that I can contribute positively to your team.

As someone who has spent 15 years experimenting with different careers, I have discovered that I love content - creating, discussing, and consuming it. I have worked in newsrooms, agencies, startups, and more, giving me a diverse set of skills that I believe will be valuable to your company.

In addition to my work at Blackstar Communications, I am also a People Analytics Podcast Host, where I interview business leaders who prioritize people-first strategies. As an Adjunct Professor at Aquinas College, I teach business communications to students, focusing on successfully transitioning from college to career.

My strength lies in offering a personal, friendly, and collaborative experience for everyone I work with. I particularly enjoy working with small business owners, nonprofit organizations, and programs for good. I am confident that my passion, skills, and experience make me the best fit for this role.

Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to hearing from you.


[Your Name]

How to create a customized cover letter instantly

Save time writing your cover letter with Teal. Through Teal, you can use artificial intelligence to merge your resume details with the job you're applying to, providing the base information for your cover letter. In seconds, you have a cover letter that directly connects your skills and experience with the job listing details.

In addition to generating a cover letter quickly, Teal has an AI Resume Builder that imports your LinkedIn profile to easily assemble your resume, as well as a Job Application Tracker that helps you organize your job search. Cut down your resume and cover letter formatting time so you can focus on what’s most important: landing your dream job.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key elements to include in the header of a cover letter?

The header of your cover letter should include your name, address, phone number, and email address, followed by the date and the employer's contact information. Ensure it matches the header on your resume to maintain consistency and professionalism.

How can I tailor my cover letter to a specific job and company?

Research the company and the job description to identify key skills and attributes they are looking for. Use this information to customize your cover letter, highlighting how your experience and achievements align with the job requirements and the company's values and goals.

What is the ideal length for a cover letter, and how can I keep it concise?

A cover letter should typically be one page long, with three to four paragraphs. Start with a strong opening statement, outline your relevant skills and experiences in the body, and conclude with a call to action. Be direct and focus on the most compelling information to keep it concise and impactful.

Lindsay Patton

Lindsay Patton is a journalist, adjunct professor, podcast host and digital communicator who specializes in business and career growth.

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